Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 26, 2008

Meanwhile, Back on Earth

Amid the insanity that has become the status of forces debate, Fouad Ajami brings much-needed clarity to the discussion of a continued military presence in Iraq.

If a struggle is said to be taking place over Iraq between America and Iran, this seals the outcome and puts to rest the claim that the Iraq war has midwifed a Shiite theocracy in Iran’s image.

Sounds kind of important to me. And as to what the Iraqis are thinking:

Maliki was not a man alone in the tilt toward the United States. He came to this choice with the warrant and the approval of some of the country’s most influential leaders among the Sunnis and the Kurds, and within his own Shiite community. There has been no explicit statement from the Shiite religious hierarchy in Najaf and its pre-eminent jurist, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. But subtlety is Sistani’s trademark. His representatives have let the word out that an agreement with the United States would have to receive parliamentary acceptance.

Which, at the moment, is a bit more crucial than Obama’s acceptance.

Amid the insanity that has become the status of forces debate, Fouad Ajami brings much-needed clarity to the discussion of a continued military presence in Iraq.

If a struggle is said to be taking place over Iraq between America and Iran, this seals the outcome and puts to rest the claim that the Iraq war has midwifed a Shiite theocracy in Iran’s image.

Sounds kind of important to me. And as to what the Iraqis are thinking:

Maliki was not a man alone in the tilt toward the United States. He came to this choice with the warrant and the approval of some of the country’s most influential leaders among the Sunnis and the Kurds, and within his own Shiite community. There has been no explicit statement from the Shiite religious hierarchy in Najaf and its pre-eminent jurist, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. But subtlety is Sistani’s trademark. His representatives have let the word out that an agreement with the United States would have to receive parliamentary acceptance.

Which, at the moment, is a bit more crucial than Obama’s acceptance.

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The Anti-Defamation League and Joe Klein

Fulfilling its historic role as a nonpartisan watchdog against anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League has acted quickly in the case of Joe Klein and his jaw-dropping use, on the Time Magazine blog Swampland, of the anti-Semitic argument of “divided loyalties” against Sen. Joseph Lieberman and those neoconservatives who supported the war. In a plainly worded letter sent yesterday, the ADL honcho said this:

We were deeply troubled by your outrageous assertion on Time Magazine’s “Swampland” blog that Jewish neoconservatives “plumped” for the war in Iraq and are now doing the same for “an even more foolish assault on Iran” with the goal of making the world “safe for Israel.” (“Surge Protection,” June 24). Whether or not one feels that America’s war on Iraq was justified, the charge that it is being fought by the United States on behalf of Israel is both offensive and categorically false.

There can be no question that in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, legitimate and serious American security and foreign policy interests played a critical role in President Bush’s decision to attack Iraq. Moreover, many top decision-makers in the administration who advocated for war hardly fit the mold of a “Jewish Neocon” – Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell being the most prominent among them.

The notion that Jews with “divided loyalties” were behind the decision to go to war is reminiscent of age-old anti-Semitic canards about a Jewish conspiracy to control and manipulate government….We are disappointed that a respected and thoughtful writer of your caliber you would resort to such stereotyping.

Klein responded quickly, and with the same quiet dignity that characterized his original post:

I have never said that Jewish neocons were the primary reason we went to war in Iraq….But Jewish neoconservatives certainly played a subsidiary role in providing an intellectual rationale for the war. In a 2003 column, I called their arguments “the casus belli that dare not speak its name.” The notion of a “benign domino theory”–benign, that is, for the interests of Israel—was certainly abroad in the community during that time….And there is now, in my opinion, an even more dangerous tendency among Jewish neoconservatives to encourage a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear program. Their gleeful, intellectual warmongering—given the vast dangers and complexities of an attack on Iran–is nauseating….

I am disappointed, but not surprised, by your claim of antisemitism. But that’s what you do for a living, isn’t it? I find your “outrage” particularly galling because the people you defend are constantly spewing canards against those who favor talking to the Palestinians, or who don’t favor witless bellicosity when it comes to Iran. Their campaign of defamation has cost people jobs, damaged reputations and careers. I am very tired of having reasonable people accused of being “soft on terrorism” or “unpatriotic” or favoring “surrender”–Joe Lieberman’s favorite—by Jewish neoconservatives who seem to have a neurotic need to prove their toughness….

Foxman has now responded:

Our concern is with the term “Jewish neoconservatives” and the distressing claim that those individuals are eager to serve Israel’s interests against the interests of their own country….

Neoconservatives have the right to make their case without having their religion brought up. So, too, do those on the opposite end of the political spectrum, whether Jewish or not….Contrary to your assertion, ADL is extremely careful in making accusations about anti-Semitism and we spend every day in our work all over the country assessing the validity — or lack thereof — of such accusations….

The letters can be read in full here.

Fulfilling its historic role as a nonpartisan watchdog against anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League has acted quickly in the case of Joe Klein and his jaw-dropping use, on the Time Magazine blog Swampland, of the anti-Semitic argument of “divided loyalties” against Sen. Joseph Lieberman and those neoconservatives who supported the war. In a plainly worded letter sent yesterday, the ADL honcho said this:

We were deeply troubled by your outrageous assertion on Time Magazine’s “Swampland” blog that Jewish neoconservatives “plumped” for the war in Iraq and are now doing the same for “an even more foolish assault on Iran” with the goal of making the world “safe for Israel.” (“Surge Protection,” June 24). Whether or not one feels that America’s war on Iraq was justified, the charge that it is being fought by the United States on behalf of Israel is both offensive and categorically false.

There can be no question that in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, legitimate and serious American security and foreign policy interests played a critical role in President Bush’s decision to attack Iraq. Moreover, many top decision-makers in the administration who advocated for war hardly fit the mold of a “Jewish Neocon” – Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell being the most prominent among them.

The notion that Jews with “divided loyalties” were behind the decision to go to war is reminiscent of age-old anti-Semitic canards about a Jewish conspiracy to control and manipulate government….We are disappointed that a respected and thoughtful writer of your caliber you would resort to such stereotyping.

Klein responded quickly, and with the same quiet dignity that characterized his original post:

I have never said that Jewish neocons were the primary reason we went to war in Iraq….But Jewish neoconservatives certainly played a subsidiary role in providing an intellectual rationale for the war. In a 2003 column, I called their arguments “the casus belli that dare not speak its name.” The notion of a “benign domino theory”–benign, that is, for the interests of Israel—was certainly abroad in the community during that time….And there is now, in my opinion, an even more dangerous tendency among Jewish neoconservatives to encourage a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear program. Their gleeful, intellectual warmongering—given the vast dangers and complexities of an attack on Iran–is nauseating….

I am disappointed, but not surprised, by your claim of antisemitism. But that’s what you do for a living, isn’t it? I find your “outrage” particularly galling because the people you defend are constantly spewing canards against those who favor talking to the Palestinians, or who don’t favor witless bellicosity when it comes to Iran. Their campaign of defamation has cost people jobs, damaged reputations and careers. I am very tired of having reasonable people accused of being “soft on terrorism” or “unpatriotic” or favoring “surrender”–Joe Lieberman’s favorite—by Jewish neoconservatives who seem to have a neurotic need to prove their toughness….

Foxman has now responded:

Our concern is with the term “Jewish neoconservatives” and the distressing claim that those individuals are eager to serve Israel’s interests against the interests of their own country….

Neoconservatives have the right to make their case without having their religion brought up. So, too, do those on the opposite end of the political spectrum, whether Jewish or not….Contrary to your assertion, ADL is extremely careful in making accusations about anti-Semitism and we spend every day in our work all over the country assessing the validity — or lack thereof — of such accusations….

The letters can be read in full here.

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Heller as Social Experiment

Today’s Supreme Court decision will cause a welcome experiment to be played out in the coming years, and I would like to make a prediction: the violent crime rate in Washington, DC will fall roughly in proportion to the rate of increase in firearms ownership by the residents of the city, ceteris paribus. Heller helped clarify the meaning of the Second Amendment. The consequences of Heller on the streets of DC will help clarify the foolishness of disarming the law-abiding citizens of large cities.

Today’s Supreme Court decision will cause a welcome experiment to be played out in the coming years, and I would like to make a prediction: the violent crime rate in Washington, DC will fall roughly in proportion to the rate of increase in firearms ownership by the residents of the city, ceteris paribus. Heller helped clarify the meaning of the Second Amendment. The consequences of Heller on the streets of DC will help clarify the foolishness of disarming the law-abiding citizens of large cities.

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Obama’s Gun Wriggle

This report details the knots which Barack Obama has tied himself up in on the gun issue. He now disavows a prior comment indicating he supported th D.C. Gun ban, arguing he really meant to avoid opining altogether.

This is both accurate (he generally tried to double talk his way through any questioning as he did in the Philadelphia debate) and intensely dishonest. Obama says he believes the Second Amendment confers an individual right, but that reasonable restictions should be permitted. But by what theory is a total ban a reasonable restriction? It is just this sort of flim-flamery which is frustrating, no doubt, both to supporters and opponents. Was he–a supposed Constitutional scholar–not capable previously of explaining his views? Hillary Clinton must be fuming to think she was the one who got the bad reputation for craven opportunism and opaqueness.

This report details the knots which Barack Obama has tied himself up in on the gun issue. He now disavows a prior comment indicating he supported th D.C. Gun ban, arguing he really meant to avoid opining altogether.

This is both accurate (he generally tried to double talk his way through any questioning as he did in the Philadelphia debate) and intensely dishonest. Obama says he believes the Second Amendment confers an individual right, but that reasonable restictions should be permitted. But by what theory is a total ban a reasonable restriction? It is just this sort of flim-flamery which is frustrating, no doubt, both to supporters and opponents. Was he–a supposed Constitutional scholar–not capable previously of explaining his views? Hillary Clinton must be fuming to think she was the one who got the bad reputation for craven opportunism and opaqueness.

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The Doctrine of Liberal Preemption

At NRO, Victor Davis Hanson diagnoses our society as being in a chronic state of hesitation, a nation of “Jittery Hamlets:”

The causes of this paralysis are clear. Action entails risks and consequences. Mere thinking doesn’t. In our litigious society, as soon as someone finally does something, someone else can become wealthy by finding some fault in it. Meanwhile, a less fussy and more confident world abroad drills and builds nuclear plants, refineries, dams, and canals to feed and fuel millions who want what we take for granted.

There is an inverse side to all this dithering: the rush to resolve gargantuan problems that do not exist: global warming, institutional racism, “Islamophobia,” American military overreach, etc. Hanson is right. Action brings risks. Perhaps the hand-wringers figure that treating a non-problem involves no risk. If you multiply something by zero, after all, you end up with zero. So: by applying aggressive policies to challenges that don’t yet exist, they once again feel safely ineffectual. This is a mad type of preemption.

In fact it’s hard to imagine a group more overzealous about the doctrine of preemption than present-day liberals. Over the course of 100 hundred year global temperatures have risen, in zig zag fashion, less than one degree. The climate has been virtually flat for a decade and it looks as if it will be flat for a decade to come. Yet, the doctrine of liberal preemption demands that we either tax, fine, create an artificial cap and trade market, or turn food into fuel in order to (ineffectively) fight what could (anything could) develop in the distant future.

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, incidents of anti-Muslim hate crime in America were so few that you could count them on one hand and have fingers to spare, yet the doctrine of liberal preemption calls for a spate of institutionalized programs to promote “understanding” between Islam and non-Muslims.

In 2007, the Senate passed a resolution declaring Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. The resolution was not even binding, let alone a declaration of war. Yet the doctrine of liberal preemption demanded that Democrat Senators draft a follow-up resolution contradicting the War Powers Act and prohibiting the president from attacking Iran without Congressional authorization. Ironically or not, there’s a good deal more liberal preemption concerning military affairs. For example, with the U.S. military stretched but hardly snapped, the only seated politician perpetually calling for a reinstitution of the draft is Democrat Charles Rangel. Status of forces discussions are in their early stages in Iraq, but not so early that the doctrine of Liberal Preemption can’t be enacted to ensure that America doesn’t pursue a “neocolonial” policy. Therefore Barack Obama has already told Iraqi Foreign Minister that the U.S. has “no interest in permanent bases in Iraq” while negotiations are still underway.

In all these cases, how is the the doctrine working out? The term “fiasco” comes to mind. Corn is being fed to cars while hungry people riot for food. Some six years after 9/11 most Americans have satisfied themselves with a cartoonishly shallow understanding of Islam and never actually get to know any Muslims. There has been a thorough unwillingness to even entertain the idea of the U.S. bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. And liberal politicians and members of the media who scream “neoimperialism!” currently put the fragile gains of the troop surge at risk. If only people could figure out when to dither and when to act.

At NRO, Victor Davis Hanson diagnoses our society as being in a chronic state of hesitation, a nation of “Jittery Hamlets:”

The causes of this paralysis are clear. Action entails risks and consequences. Mere thinking doesn’t. In our litigious society, as soon as someone finally does something, someone else can become wealthy by finding some fault in it. Meanwhile, a less fussy and more confident world abroad drills and builds nuclear plants, refineries, dams, and canals to feed and fuel millions who want what we take for granted.

There is an inverse side to all this dithering: the rush to resolve gargantuan problems that do not exist: global warming, institutional racism, “Islamophobia,” American military overreach, etc. Hanson is right. Action brings risks. Perhaps the hand-wringers figure that treating a non-problem involves no risk. If you multiply something by zero, after all, you end up with zero. So: by applying aggressive policies to challenges that don’t yet exist, they once again feel safely ineffectual. This is a mad type of preemption.

In fact it’s hard to imagine a group more overzealous about the doctrine of preemption than present-day liberals. Over the course of 100 hundred year global temperatures have risen, in zig zag fashion, less than one degree. The climate has been virtually flat for a decade and it looks as if it will be flat for a decade to come. Yet, the doctrine of liberal preemption demands that we either tax, fine, create an artificial cap and trade market, or turn food into fuel in order to (ineffectively) fight what could (anything could) develop in the distant future.

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, incidents of anti-Muslim hate crime in America were so few that you could count them on one hand and have fingers to spare, yet the doctrine of liberal preemption calls for a spate of institutionalized programs to promote “understanding” between Islam and non-Muslims.

In 2007, the Senate passed a resolution declaring Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. The resolution was not even binding, let alone a declaration of war. Yet the doctrine of liberal preemption demanded that Democrat Senators draft a follow-up resolution contradicting the War Powers Act and prohibiting the president from attacking Iran without Congressional authorization. Ironically or not, there’s a good deal more liberal preemption concerning military affairs. For example, with the U.S. military stretched but hardly snapped, the only seated politician perpetually calling for a reinstitution of the draft is Democrat Charles Rangel. Status of forces discussions are in their early stages in Iraq, but not so early that the doctrine of Liberal Preemption can’t be enacted to ensure that America doesn’t pursue a “neocolonial” policy. Therefore Barack Obama has already told Iraqi Foreign Minister that the U.S. has “no interest in permanent bases in Iraq” while negotiations are still underway.

In all these cases, how is the the doctrine working out? The term “fiasco” comes to mind. Corn is being fed to cars while hungry people riot for food. Some six years after 9/11 most Americans have satisfied themselves with a cartoonishly shallow understanding of Islam and never actually get to know any Muslims. There has been a thorough unwillingness to even entertain the idea of the U.S. bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. And liberal politicians and members of the media who scream “neoimperialism!” currently put the fragile gains of the troop surge at risk. If only people could figure out when to dither and when to act.

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Re: Scalia the Grammarian

I want to second John’s wholly appropriate reference to Justice Scalia as “the most distinguished and vibrant public intellectual in the United States.” The best evidence for this claim can be found in Scalia’s opinions, which are unmatched in their logic, clarity, forcefulness, and style. He is not only a brilliant legal mind; he is a flat-out brilliant writer. His intellect and charisma are are also on full display in this interview with Charlie Rose. The Justice covers a lot of ground there, from his legal philosophy to particular cases to the inner workings of the Court to his upbringing to Thomas More and A Man for All Season.

Scalia’s decision to become a more visible public presence was something of a break from Supreme Court tradition–but in this instance, I’m glad precedent didn’t prevail. He is one of America’s great educators, on the law and the constitution.

Ronald Reagan did countless impressive, and even a few great, things during his presidency. But appointing Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court ranks right near the top. To see human excellence on display is always a wonderful thing to behold.

I want to second John’s wholly appropriate reference to Justice Scalia as “the most distinguished and vibrant public intellectual in the United States.” The best evidence for this claim can be found in Scalia’s opinions, which are unmatched in their logic, clarity, forcefulness, and style. He is not only a brilliant legal mind; he is a flat-out brilliant writer. His intellect and charisma are are also on full display in this interview with Charlie Rose. The Justice covers a lot of ground there, from his legal philosophy to particular cases to the inner workings of the Court to his upbringing to Thomas More and A Man for All Season.

Scalia’s decision to become a more visible public presence was something of a break from Supreme Court tradition–but in this instance, I’m glad precedent didn’t prevail. He is one of America’s great educators, on the law and the constitution.

Ronald Reagan did countless impressive, and even a few great, things during his presidency. But appointing Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court ranks right near the top. To see human excellence on display is always a wonderful thing to behold.

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Scalia the Grammarian

There will be a great deal to say about today’s landmark Supreme Court decision, the first in American history that explicitly finds in the Constitution a personal right to keep and bear arms and overturns a 32-year-old ban on handguns in the District of Columbia. What strikes this non-lawyer, as I read Justice Scalia’s majority opinion, is how anchored it is in the elementary logic of grammar. Because of the odd sentence structure of the Second Amendment — which states, in its entirety, that “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” — those who have opposed the idea of an individual right to keep and bear arms have resorted to fancy linguistic explanations of how its first half is an implicit limit on the right enumerated in the second half. In other words, they argue that the right to keep and bear arms can only be understood in the context of a citizen militia — which is to say, an army composed not of professional or drafted fighters but rather of ordinary citizens who would therefore have to own and house their own weaponry to use in case of war.

In 17 remarkable pages of crystalline logic, Scalia destroys this argument, and in a most novel way — by arguing against the dissenting opinion by Justice Stevens, which follows it. And in a tribute to one of the West’s great logicians, Scalia makes continual and pointed reference to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s examination of the way arguments over the use language can be used to obfuscate rather than enlighten. Alice, our stand-in, is forever seeing through the silliness of the world around her by commenting on how nonsensical it is. So, too, Scalia:

Logic demands that there be a link between the stated purpose and the command. The Second Amendment would be nonsensical if it read, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to petition for redress of grievances shall not be infringed.”

You cannot, in other words, use the words of the first half of the Second Amendment to change the meaning of the second half. The prefatory clause can only clarify what follows it. It cannot logically reverse it. As he says later, about an argument made in part in a brief filed by academic linguists that the Second Amendment allows an individual a gun to serve in a militia and to hunt game but for no other purpose:

A purposive qualifying phrase that contradicts the word or phrase it modifies is unknown this side of the looking glass (except, apparently, in some courses on Linguistics)….[I]f “bear arms” means, as the petitioners and dissent think, the carrying of arms for military purposes, one simply cannot ad “for the purposes of killing game.” The right “to carry arms in the militia for the purpose of killing game” is worthy of the mad hatter.

This is ratiocination of a very, very high order. Scalia once again demonstrates that he is, probably without question, the most distinguished and vibrant public intellectual in the United States.

There will be a great deal to say about today’s landmark Supreme Court decision, the first in American history that explicitly finds in the Constitution a personal right to keep and bear arms and overturns a 32-year-old ban on handguns in the District of Columbia. What strikes this non-lawyer, as I read Justice Scalia’s majority opinion, is how anchored it is in the elementary logic of grammar. Because of the odd sentence structure of the Second Amendment — which states, in its entirety, that “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” — those who have opposed the idea of an individual right to keep and bear arms have resorted to fancy linguistic explanations of how its first half is an implicit limit on the right enumerated in the second half. In other words, they argue that the right to keep and bear arms can only be understood in the context of a citizen militia — which is to say, an army composed not of professional or drafted fighters but rather of ordinary citizens who would therefore have to own and house their own weaponry to use in case of war.

In 17 remarkable pages of crystalline logic, Scalia destroys this argument, and in a most novel way — by arguing against the dissenting opinion by Justice Stevens, which follows it. And in a tribute to one of the West’s great logicians, Scalia makes continual and pointed reference to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s examination of the way arguments over the use language can be used to obfuscate rather than enlighten. Alice, our stand-in, is forever seeing through the silliness of the world around her by commenting on how nonsensical it is. So, too, Scalia:

Logic demands that there be a link between the stated purpose and the command. The Second Amendment would be nonsensical if it read, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to petition for redress of grievances shall not be infringed.”

You cannot, in other words, use the words of the first half of the Second Amendment to change the meaning of the second half. The prefatory clause can only clarify what follows it. It cannot logically reverse it. As he says later, about an argument made in part in a brief filed by academic linguists that the Second Amendment allows an individual a gun to serve in a militia and to hunt game but for no other purpose:

A purposive qualifying phrase that contradicts the word or phrase it modifies is unknown this side of the looking glass (except, apparently, in some courses on Linguistics)….[I]f “bear arms” means, as the petitioners and dissent think, the carrying of arms for military purposes, one simply cannot ad “for the purposes of killing game.” The right “to carry arms in the militia for the purpose of killing game” is worthy of the mad hatter.

This is ratiocination of a very, very high order. Scalia once again demonstrates that he is, probably without question, the most distinguished and vibrant public intellectual in the United States.

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The D.C. Gun Ban

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision striking down the D.C. gun ban is noteworthy both for what it did and did not do. It did establish an individual right to bear arms. But it did not definitively answer whether the Second Amendment’s restrictions apply to the states. Most importantly, it does not set a level of scrutiny — strict, intermediate, or rational-basis — which will provide guidance in the future. That silence may have been the price for garnering Justice Kennedy’s deciding vote.

On the political front the McCain team is touting the decision and reminding everyone that Barack Obama did not sign on to the Congressional amicus brief asking the Court to strike down the gun ban. They are also putting out reminders that Obama claimed that his own handwriting did not appear on a questionnaire completed when he was a state senator which indicated he favored a handgun ban. (His signature did appear on other pages of the same questionnaire and those who interviewed Obama confirm the responses represent his views.)

There are a couple of major takeaways. Once again, Obama’s favorite justices voted for an outcome (they would have upheld the individual handgun ban) from which Obama will likely distance himself. Second, if Obama’s brand of authenticity is taking a bashing, his equivocation and hedging on this issue won’t help much.

UPDATE: Correction, Justice Scalia did eliminate the rationale basis test but left open whether the applicable standard would be a strict or intermediate standard. 

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision striking down the D.C. gun ban is noteworthy both for what it did and did not do. It did establish an individual right to bear arms. But it did not definitively answer whether the Second Amendment’s restrictions apply to the states. Most importantly, it does not set a level of scrutiny — strict, intermediate, or rational-basis — which will provide guidance in the future. That silence may have been the price for garnering Justice Kennedy’s deciding vote.

On the political front the McCain team is touting the decision and reminding everyone that Barack Obama did not sign on to the Congressional amicus brief asking the Court to strike down the gun ban. They are also putting out reminders that Obama claimed that his own handwriting did not appear on a questionnaire completed when he was a state senator which indicated he favored a handgun ban. (His signature did appear on other pages of the same questionnaire and those who interviewed Obama confirm the responses represent his views.)

There are a couple of major takeaways. Once again, Obama’s favorite justices voted for an outcome (they would have upheld the individual handgun ban) from which Obama will likely distance himself. Second, if Obama’s brand of authenticity is taking a bashing, his equivocation and hedging on this issue won’t help much.

UPDATE: Correction, Justice Scalia did eliminate the rationale basis test but left open whether the applicable standard would be a strict or intermediate standard. 

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Klein and Sullivan, Yet Again

Jennifer Rubin, Paul Mirengoff at Powerline, and Pete Wehner at National Review have all weighed in cogently on Joe Klein’s outrageous assertion, which he refuses to back down from, that “a great many Jewish neoconservatives–people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary–plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.” Not only did Klein not back down, but he expanded his outrageous accusations:

You want evidence of divided loyalties? How about the “benign domino theory” that so many Jewish neoconservatives talked to me about–off the record, of course–in the runup to the Iraq war, the idea that Israel’s security could be won by taking out Saddam, which would set off a cascade of disaster for Israel’s enemies in the region? As my grandmother would say, feh! Do you actually deny that the casus belli that dare not speak its name wasn’t, as I wrote in February 2003, a desire to make the world safe for Israel? Why the rush now to bomb Iran, a country that poses some threat to Israel but none–for the moment–to the United States…unless we go ahead, attack it, and the mullahs unleash Hezbollah terrorists against us? Do you really believe the mullahs would stage a nuclear attack on Israel, destroying the third most holy site in Islam and killing untold numbers of Muslims? I am not ruling out the use of force against Iran–it may come to that–but you folks seem to embrace it gleefully.

Pete and Paul have already made the correct and obvious rejoinder that Israel was not particularly hankering for an invasion of Iraq. In fact most Israelis were skeptical all along of the chances of implanting democracy in Iraq, and Iraq was never their biggest security concern. Iran was. If they had their druthers, they would much rather have seen American action against the mullahs rather than against Saddam Hussein. As for American Jewish supporters of the war effort, no doubt some thought that taking out Saddam would increase the general security of the Middle East and redound to the benefit of, inter alia, Israel. For that matter, a lot of non-Jewish supporters of the war thought so too. Does that mean that they were primarily motivated by Israel’s concerns and not America? Not exactly, since by an odd coincidence Israel’s enemies-Syria, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah-happen to be America’s enemies as well. (Iran has been waging war on us since the 1979 hostage crisis, and, with Syrian assistance, it has often employed Hezbollah proxies-not only in Lebanon in the 1980s but more recently in Iraq.) It is very hard in the Middle East to disentangle the security concerns of the United States from those of Israel, since both countries are liberal democracies whose interests lie in promoting peace and stability and countering Iran’s bid for regional hegemony.

The notion that only Jews whose first concern is for the security of Israel could possibly favor the invasion of Iraq is laughable. In the first place, as Wehner notes, most of those who supported the invasion of Iraq weren’t Jewish, unless by some miracle 70% of the American population (roughly the percentage that supported the initial operation) has been converted to the Hebraic faith. Moreover, there is not an iota of evidence that any Jews supported the invasion even though they thought it would be detrimental to American security, simply because they thought it would help out Israel-which would have to be the case for the “dual loyalties” smear to have any validity. Why, after all, did Joe Klein, an American Jew, support the invasion? Was he thinking primarily of Israel’s interests? Or did he perhaps think that deposing Saddam Hussein was in America’s interest?

It is equally outrageous to claim that only Jews primarily concerned with Israeli security could possibly favor military action against Iran. I am agnostic on the question of whether we should strike Iran, but anyone who has been to the Middle East lately knows that many Sunni Arabs are secretly hoping that we will do so. They are as worried as Israel about the implications of the “Persians” getting their hands on nuclear weapons, and as desperate for us to do something about it. Israel, of course, has special cause for concern because the leader of Iran keeps making blood-curdling threats to eradiate it. That is of concern not only in Jerusalem but in Washington-and it should be. Threats against our allies are threats against us, and Israel is the closest ally we have in the Middle East.

It is dismaying to see Klein repeat the outrageous anti-Semitic fallacy which holds that any American action which benefits Israel to any degree and with which one disagrees is the product not of legitimate policy calculations but of a Zionist conspiracy. Why do we so seldom hear such accusations made when the U.S. comes to the defense of countries not run by Jews? In the past century, hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives to safeguard, among others, France, Britain, South Korea, and South Vietnam. By contrast no American soldiers have lost their lives defending Israel, unless one thinks, as Pat Buchanan and David Duke do, that the Gulf War of 1991 and the Iraq War of 2003 were waged at Israel’s behest.

Did we wage the earlier, costlier wars at the behest of some insidious French, British, Korean or Vietnamese lobby? Actually we have heard such accusations in the past. In the wake of World War I, another unsatisfying conflict, there were many who claimed that the British, “merchants of death,” and the international bankers, with an assist from the international Zionist conspiracy (which we all know is closely aligned with the capitalist conspiracy), bamboozled us into the war. America Firsters in the 1930s picked up the charge and claimed that the only people who wanted us to fight Hitler were British bankers and the Jews.

You don’t hear much talk along those lines these days. It is generally recognized that the United States took part in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War because it thought that doing so would be in its own interest, even if the benefits that accrued to our allies were actually greater. (After all, we saved a number of countries from occupation, whereas there was never a credible threat of enemy armies showing up on our shores.)

Likewise, we are now entangled in Iraq because the president, Congress, and a large majority of the American population thought it was the right thing to do. To blame the current war on “the Jews”-or even to make the more qualified claim that Jewish supporters of the war were compromising American security for Israel’s benefit-is not worthy of a serious publication. Which makes it all the more puzzling that Joe Klein is peddling precisely such rubbish from his perch at Time magazine, and that Andrew Sullivan is endorsing him from his perch at the Atlantic.

Jennifer Rubin, Paul Mirengoff at Powerline, and Pete Wehner at National Review have all weighed in cogently on Joe Klein’s outrageous assertion, which he refuses to back down from, that “a great many Jewish neoconservatives–people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary–plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.” Not only did Klein not back down, but he expanded his outrageous accusations:

You want evidence of divided loyalties? How about the “benign domino theory” that so many Jewish neoconservatives talked to me about–off the record, of course–in the runup to the Iraq war, the idea that Israel’s security could be won by taking out Saddam, which would set off a cascade of disaster for Israel’s enemies in the region? As my grandmother would say, feh! Do you actually deny that the casus belli that dare not speak its name wasn’t, as I wrote in February 2003, a desire to make the world safe for Israel? Why the rush now to bomb Iran, a country that poses some threat to Israel but none–for the moment–to the United States…unless we go ahead, attack it, and the mullahs unleash Hezbollah terrorists against us? Do you really believe the mullahs would stage a nuclear attack on Israel, destroying the third most holy site in Islam and killing untold numbers of Muslims? I am not ruling out the use of force against Iran–it may come to that–but you folks seem to embrace it gleefully.

Pete and Paul have already made the correct and obvious rejoinder that Israel was not particularly hankering for an invasion of Iraq. In fact most Israelis were skeptical all along of the chances of implanting democracy in Iraq, and Iraq was never their biggest security concern. Iran was. If they had their druthers, they would much rather have seen American action against the mullahs rather than against Saddam Hussein. As for American Jewish supporters of the war effort, no doubt some thought that taking out Saddam would increase the general security of the Middle East and redound to the benefit of, inter alia, Israel. For that matter, a lot of non-Jewish supporters of the war thought so too. Does that mean that they were primarily motivated by Israel’s concerns and not America? Not exactly, since by an odd coincidence Israel’s enemies-Syria, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah-happen to be America’s enemies as well. (Iran has been waging war on us since the 1979 hostage crisis, and, with Syrian assistance, it has often employed Hezbollah proxies-not only in Lebanon in the 1980s but more recently in Iraq.) It is very hard in the Middle East to disentangle the security concerns of the United States from those of Israel, since both countries are liberal democracies whose interests lie in promoting peace and stability and countering Iran’s bid for regional hegemony.

The notion that only Jews whose first concern is for the security of Israel could possibly favor the invasion of Iraq is laughable. In the first place, as Wehner notes, most of those who supported the invasion of Iraq weren’t Jewish, unless by some miracle 70% of the American population (roughly the percentage that supported the initial operation) has been converted to the Hebraic faith. Moreover, there is not an iota of evidence that any Jews supported the invasion even though they thought it would be detrimental to American security, simply because they thought it would help out Israel-which would have to be the case for the “dual loyalties” smear to have any validity. Why, after all, did Joe Klein, an American Jew, support the invasion? Was he thinking primarily of Israel’s interests? Or did he perhaps think that deposing Saddam Hussein was in America’s interest?

It is equally outrageous to claim that only Jews primarily concerned with Israeli security could possibly favor military action against Iran. I am agnostic on the question of whether we should strike Iran, but anyone who has been to the Middle East lately knows that many Sunni Arabs are secretly hoping that we will do so. They are as worried as Israel about the implications of the “Persians” getting their hands on nuclear weapons, and as desperate for us to do something about it. Israel, of course, has special cause for concern because the leader of Iran keeps making blood-curdling threats to eradiate it. That is of concern not only in Jerusalem but in Washington-and it should be. Threats against our allies are threats against us, and Israel is the closest ally we have in the Middle East.

It is dismaying to see Klein repeat the outrageous anti-Semitic fallacy which holds that any American action which benefits Israel to any degree and with which one disagrees is the product not of legitimate policy calculations but of a Zionist conspiracy. Why do we so seldom hear such accusations made when the U.S. comes to the defense of countries not run by Jews? In the past century, hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives to safeguard, among others, France, Britain, South Korea, and South Vietnam. By contrast no American soldiers have lost their lives defending Israel, unless one thinks, as Pat Buchanan and David Duke do, that the Gulf War of 1991 and the Iraq War of 2003 were waged at Israel’s behest.

Did we wage the earlier, costlier wars at the behest of some insidious French, British, Korean or Vietnamese lobby? Actually we have heard such accusations in the past. In the wake of World War I, another unsatisfying conflict, there were many who claimed that the British, “merchants of death,” and the international bankers, with an assist from the international Zionist conspiracy (which we all know is closely aligned with the capitalist conspiracy), bamboozled us into the war. America Firsters in the 1930s picked up the charge and claimed that the only people who wanted us to fight Hitler were British bankers and the Jews.

You don’t hear much talk along those lines these days. It is generally recognized that the United States took part in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War because it thought that doing so would be in its own interest, even if the benefits that accrued to our allies were actually greater. (After all, we saved a number of countries from occupation, whereas there was never a credible threat of enemy armies showing up on our shores.)

Likewise, we are now entangled in Iraq because the president, Congress, and a large majority of the American population thought it was the right thing to do. To blame the current war on “the Jews”-or even to make the more qualified claim that Jewish supporters of the war were compromising American security for Israel’s benefit-is not worthy of a serious publication. Which makes it all the more puzzling that Joe Klein is peddling precisely such rubbish from his perch at Time magazine, and that Andrew Sullivan is endorsing him from his perch at the Atlantic.

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Gathering No Moss

Rolling Stone founder and publisher Jann Wenner interviewed Barack Obama recently, and the little bit that’s available on-line is enough to earn Wenner a lifetime achievement award for obsequiousness. The interview was conducted on the Obama campaign plane, and by the second paragraph Wenner is marveling at the spirit of egalité aboard Air Force Hope:

The first thing I notice about the plane is how low-key it is, all coach seating from back (the press) to front (the candidate). There is no separate compartment for this potential president; he just holds down the second row for himself and his newspapers.

Immediately following, Wenner actually praises the candidate for — get ready for it — giving a short interview:

So far in this campaign, despite their evident admiration, Obama has held the press at a respectful distance. The limit for our interview is going to be 50 minutes, which I think says a lot about him and his campaign. Most every other presidential candidate I’ve met and interviewed has tended to be gregarious, talkative almost to a fault, eager to please and eager to impress. Obama, by contrast, is quiet, collected and effortlessly precise.

If only Wenner had followed his idol’s example and not tried so hard to impress us with this meaningless observation.

And when the monk-like Obama whispers his choice pearls of effortless precision, what do we learn? He like Bob Dylan’s song “Maggie’s Farm”:

It speaks to me as I listen to some of the political rhetoric.

The Rolling Stone website only has a teaser of the interview up, but I found some other parts elsewhere, and the following Obama quote is a real keeper:

I’ve learned two things, and I think these two things are connected. One is that the older I get, the less important feeding my vanity becomes. I’ve discovered that I don’t get a lot of satisfaction from being the center of attention, but I do get a lot of satisfaction about getting work done.

And that, in turn, has led to a confirmation that I have a very steady temper. I don’t get too high when things are high, I don’t get too low when things are low, which has been very helpful during this campaign and is reflected in the people I hire and how we run our organization.

You heard him. He is humble. He likes getting work done. He doesn’t get too high. He doesn’t get too low. And this evenness is reflected in the people he hires.

Rolling Stone founder and publisher Jann Wenner interviewed Barack Obama recently, and the little bit that’s available on-line is enough to earn Wenner a lifetime achievement award for obsequiousness. The interview was conducted on the Obama campaign plane, and by the second paragraph Wenner is marveling at the spirit of egalité aboard Air Force Hope:

The first thing I notice about the plane is how low-key it is, all coach seating from back (the press) to front (the candidate). There is no separate compartment for this potential president; he just holds down the second row for himself and his newspapers.

Immediately following, Wenner actually praises the candidate for — get ready for it — giving a short interview:

So far in this campaign, despite their evident admiration, Obama has held the press at a respectful distance. The limit for our interview is going to be 50 minutes, which I think says a lot about him and his campaign. Most every other presidential candidate I’ve met and interviewed has tended to be gregarious, talkative almost to a fault, eager to please and eager to impress. Obama, by contrast, is quiet, collected and effortlessly precise.

If only Wenner had followed his idol’s example and not tried so hard to impress us with this meaningless observation.

And when the monk-like Obama whispers his choice pearls of effortless precision, what do we learn? He like Bob Dylan’s song “Maggie’s Farm”:

It speaks to me as I listen to some of the political rhetoric.

The Rolling Stone website only has a teaser of the interview up, but I found some other parts elsewhere, and the following Obama quote is a real keeper:

I’ve learned two things, and I think these two things are connected. One is that the older I get, the less important feeding my vanity becomes. I’ve discovered that I don’t get a lot of satisfaction from being the center of attention, but I do get a lot of satisfaction about getting work done.

And that, in turn, has led to a confirmation that I have a very steady temper. I don’t get too high when things are high, I don’t get too low when things are low, which has been very helpful during this campaign and is reflected in the people I hire and how we run our organization.

You heard him. He is humble. He likes getting work done. He doesn’t get too high. He doesn’t get too low. And this evenness is reflected in the people he hires.

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Where Is the Transparency?

One part of Barack Obama’s reformer image — his devotion to public financing — has gone by the wayside. But what about transparency, the favorite buzzword of reformers? You will recall how his campaign bashed Hillary Clinton for months for failure to open up the records on the Clinton Library donors and the Clintons’ taxes. But what about Obama’s own records?

Yes, he did share some tax returns. But not his actual medical records. And this reminds me that his bar application, which contains a full accounting of ethical and legal issues, remains hidden from view. And what about his state senate records, of which he claims there is not a scrap of paper, anywhere? Even the precise clients he represented as a lawyer, including the extent of his work for Tony Rezko, remain shrouded from view. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported:

But Obama’s ties with Rezko go beyond those two real estate sales and the political support, the Sun-Times found. Obama was an attorney with a small Chicago law firm — Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland — that helped Rezmar get more than $43 million in government funding to rehab 15 of their 30 apartment buildings for the poor. Just what legal work — and how much — Obama did on those deals is unknown. His campaign staff acknowledges he worked on some of them. But the Rezmar-related work amounted to just five hours over the six years it said Obama was affiliated with the law firm, the staff said in an e-mail in February. Obama, however, was associated with the firm for more than nine years, his staff acknowledged Sunday in an e-mail response to questions submitted March 14 by the Sun-Times. They didn’t say what deals he worked on — or how much work he did.

This leads to two conclusions. First, we have very little documentary information about Obama’s two primary jobs before coming to the Senate in 2004: lawyer and state senator. For someone who clubbed the Clintons for over a year about disclosure he has been forced to cough up virtually nothing which might reveal information critical to evaluating his claims to be a reformer and to understanding how he operated as a state legislator for twelve years. (Remember how he hammered away for those Clinton White House logs?) Second, regardless of what might be revealed there is a broader issue, which seems to fall within the same “but not me” exception as public financing. How transparent is Obama when it comes to his own conduct and records? Just as we have for public financing we are apparently about to set a new standard for candidates — turn over nothing and demand your competitors turn over everything.

The media with their newfound sense of indignation about Obama’s double-standards as well as some of those good government groups so despondent over his decision to renege on public financing might begin to press him on transparency. In short, for the candidate with the thinnest record of any recent major party nominee, it is time to ask why do we know so little about even that meager record.

One part of Barack Obama’s reformer image — his devotion to public financing — has gone by the wayside. But what about transparency, the favorite buzzword of reformers? You will recall how his campaign bashed Hillary Clinton for months for failure to open up the records on the Clinton Library donors and the Clintons’ taxes. But what about Obama’s own records?

Yes, he did share some tax returns. But not his actual medical records. And this reminds me that his bar application, which contains a full accounting of ethical and legal issues, remains hidden from view. And what about his state senate records, of which he claims there is not a scrap of paper, anywhere? Even the precise clients he represented as a lawyer, including the extent of his work for Tony Rezko, remain shrouded from view. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported:

But Obama’s ties with Rezko go beyond those two real estate sales and the political support, the Sun-Times found. Obama was an attorney with a small Chicago law firm — Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland — that helped Rezmar get more than $43 million in government funding to rehab 15 of their 30 apartment buildings for the poor. Just what legal work — and how much — Obama did on those deals is unknown. His campaign staff acknowledges he worked on some of them. But the Rezmar-related work amounted to just five hours over the six years it said Obama was affiliated with the law firm, the staff said in an e-mail in February. Obama, however, was associated with the firm for more than nine years, his staff acknowledged Sunday in an e-mail response to questions submitted March 14 by the Sun-Times. They didn’t say what deals he worked on — or how much work he did.

This leads to two conclusions. First, we have very little documentary information about Obama’s two primary jobs before coming to the Senate in 2004: lawyer and state senator. For someone who clubbed the Clintons for over a year about disclosure he has been forced to cough up virtually nothing which might reveal information critical to evaluating his claims to be a reformer and to understanding how he operated as a state legislator for twelve years. (Remember how he hammered away for those Clinton White House logs?) Second, regardless of what might be revealed there is a broader issue, which seems to fall within the same “but not me” exception as public financing. How transparent is Obama when it comes to his own conduct and records? Just as we have for public financing we are apparently about to set a new standard for candidates — turn over nothing and demand your competitors turn over everything.

The media with their newfound sense of indignation about Obama’s double-standards as well as some of those good government groups so despondent over his decision to renege on public financing might begin to press him on transparency. In short, for the candidate with the thinnest record of any recent major party nominee, it is time to ask why do we know so little about even that meager record.

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Mugabe’s British Enablers

“We’ve done enough damage. All we can do is send food,” writes Simon Jenkins in The Guardian, regarding the crisis in Zimbabwe. The “we” is not Robert Mugabe or his ZANU-PF thugocracy, as you might suspect, but the British. Jenkins, one of Britain’s fiercest anti-war polemicists, represents an ascendant wing of leftish politics: left-wing isolationism. “Robert Mugabe is making a mockery of liberal interventionism,” Jenkins writes, describing it as “a will-o’-the-wisp, a vapid, feel-good refashioning of foreign policy in response to a headline event, motivated by self-interest or passing mood.” He all but thanks Mugabe for doing it.

According to Jenkins, because Britain — the former colonial power that once ruled Rhodesia, present-day Zimbabwe — made a series of mistakes regarding its policy towards that country, “there is no alternative for Britain to sitting out the Zimbabwean tragedy, impotent on the sidelines.” There are two problems with his argument, the first one conceptual and the second one historical. That Britain can’t effect meaningful change in Zimbabwe simply because it overlooked Mugabe’s brutality in the 1980’s is the same leftist argument that was trotted out, endlessly, by anti-war activists in the run up to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Because the United States supported Hussein with weapons in his war against Iran fifteen years ago, this argument went, it was somehow logically inconsistent to declare him an enemy and seek his removal from power in 2003. Many war opponents, it seemed, favored keeping Hussein in power for the sake of some perverted form of intellectual “consistency.”

The mistakes in British policy which Jenkins believe annul intervention all occurred in the 1980’s, when Mugabe solidified his dictatorship and murdered thousands of his political opponents. Oddly, Jenkins doesn’t talk about the period before 1980, probably because he — like nearly every Leftist at the time — cheered Mugabe on as a liberation hero. Talking about Britain’s policy towards Rhodesia pre-1980 would force Jenkins to admit that the history of his country isn’t entirely that of a rapacious, ex-colonial power loathed by its former native subjects, a narrative to which he and his employer are so obviously wedded. Jenkins is old enough to remember Rhodesia’s 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence, in which the colony rebelled against Great Britain’s insistence that it move towards majority rule. For the next 15 years, the British enforced an arms embargo on its former colony and led the United Nations to impose worldwide sanctions on the regime. Ultimately, it was British diplomacy — under successive Labor and Conservative governments — that brought Ian Smith to his knees and ended white rule. For Jenkins to argue that British colonialism is to blame for Zimbabwe’s current plight utterly ignores its policies regarding white minority rule in Africa.

Jenkins mocks liberal interventionism further. “Sated on having ‘done something,’ presumably glorious, about Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, public opinion is hard-wired to such a question. So what is to be done?” His use of scare quotes is perplexing. Great Britain undertook military interventions in all of the examples he cites–its doing something was hardly hypothetical. Most people would judge Bosnia, Sierra Leone, and Kosovo successes. (Although it appears that Jenkins also thinks that Britain created a “mess” in the Balkans.) Most people would also consider Afghanistan at least partially successful. Iraq, of course, is still a developing case. But given Jenkins’s own metrics, I can confidently say that interventionists are still 3.5 or 4 for 5.

“We’ve done enough damage. All we can do is send food,” writes Simon Jenkins in The Guardian, regarding the crisis in Zimbabwe. The “we” is not Robert Mugabe or his ZANU-PF thugocracy, as you might suspect, but the British. Jenkins, one of Britain’s fiercest anti-war polemicists, represents an ascendant wing of leftish politics: left-wing isolationism. “Robert Mugabe is making a mockery of liberal interventionism,” Jenkins writes, describing it as “a will-o’-the-wisp, a vapid, feel-good refashioning of foreign policy in response to a headline event, motivated by self-interest or passing mood.” He all but thanks Mugabe for doing it.

According to Jenkins, because Britain — the former colonial power that once ruled Rhodesia, present-day Zimbabwe — made a series of mistakes regarding its policy towards that country, “there is no alternative for Britain to sitting out the Zimbabwean tragedy, impotent on the sidelines.” There are two problems with his argument, the first one conceptual and the second one historical. That Britain can’t effect meaningful change in Zimbabwe simply because it overlooked Mugabe’s brutality in the 1980’s is the same leftist argument that was trotted out, endlessly, by anti-war activists in the run up to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Because the United States supported Hussein with weapons in his war against Iran fifteen years ago, this argument went, it was somehow logically inconsistent to declare him an enemy and seek his removal from power in 2003. Many war opponents, it seemed, favored keeping Hussein in power for the sake of some perverted form of intellectual “consistency.”

The mistakes in British policy which Jenkins believe annul intervention all occurred in the 1980’s, when Mugabe solidified his dictatorship and murdered thousands of his political opponents. Oddly, Jenkins doesn’t talk about the period before 1980, probably because he — like nearly every Leftist at the time — cheered Mugabe on as a liberation hero. Talking about Britain’s policy towards Rhodesia pre-1980 would force Jenkins to admit that the history of his country isn’t entirely that of a rapacious, ex-colonial power loathed by its former native subjects, a narrative to which he and his employer are so obviously wedded. Jenkins is old enough to remember Rhodesia’s 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence, in which the colony rebelled against Great Britain’s insistence that it move towards majority rule. For the next 15 years, the British enforced an arms embargo on its former colony and led the United Nations to impose worldwide sanctions on the regime. Ultimately, it was British diplomacy — under successive Labor and Conservative governments — that brought Ian Smith to his knees and ended white rule. For Jenkins to argue that British colonialism is to blame for Zimbabwe’s current plight utterly ignores its policies regarding white minority rule in Africa.

Jenkins mocks liberal interventionism further. “Sated on having ‘done something,’ presumably glorious, about Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, public opinion is hard-wired to such a question. So what is to be done?” His use of scare quotes is perplexing. Great Britain undertook military interventions in all of the examples he cites–its doing something was hardly hypothetical. Most people would judge Bosnia, Sierra Leone, and Kosovo successes. (Although it appears that Jenkins also thinks that Britain created a “mess” in the Balkans.) Most people would also consider Afghanistan at least partially successful. Iraq, of course, is still a developing case. But given Jenkins’s own metrics, I can confidently say that interventionists are still 3.5 or 4 for 5.

Read Less

Laughs From The Obama Presser

The McCain camp is giving Barack Obama grief for refusing to concede that he broke his word on campaign financing. Notice the use of the newly popular “A” word — arrogant. But even more amusing than his refusal to admit the obvious (and the media’s eureka moment, having discovered that the guy with the cult rock video is egotistical) is Obama’s fillibuster response to the reneging on public financing question which you can read here. We haven’t seen an answer that long and unresponsive since Jake Tapper asked him what record he had of bipartisan bridge building.

So I would suggest a few guidelines for observing Obama’s interaction with the press. First, the longer he talks, the less information he is imparting. Second, the real sign that the media has fully stepped into its role as an appropriate impartial force to be reckoned with will be when they start demanding he answer follow-up questions and when they begin asking queries with the same tone of disbelief usually reserved for a Bush presser on Iraq. (“You don’t expect the American people to believe. . . “) And finally, when the press asks him something hard (e.g. “Although you oppose the Supreme Court death penalty decision, the justices in the dissent majority are your ideal judges, so wouldn’t we get more of these cases with Obama appointees?”) that exposes a contradiction in his position (similar to what McCain is regularly confronted with) we will see if Obama has learned to function “outside his comfort zone.”

The McCain camp is giving Barack Obama grief for refusing to concede that he broke his word on campaign financing. Notice the use of the newly popular “A” word — arrogant. But even more amusing than his refusal to admit the obvious (and the media’s eureka moment, having discovered that the guy with the cult rock video is egotistical) is Obama’s fillibuster response to the reneging on public financing question which you can read here. We haven’t seen an answer that long and unresponsive since Jake Tapper asked him what record he had of bipartisan bridge building.

So I would suggest a few guidelines for observing Obama’s interaction with the press. First, the longer he talks, the less information he is imparting. Second, the real sign that the media has fully stepped into its role as an appropriate impartial force to be reckoned with will be when they start demanding he answer follow-up questions and when they begin asking queries with the same tone of disbelief usually reserved for a Bush presser on Iraq. (“You don’t expect the American people to believe. . . “) And finally, when the press asks him something hard (e.g. “Although you oppose the Supreme Court death penalty decision, the justices in the dissent majority are your ideal judges, so wouldn’t we get more of these cases with Obama appointees?”) that exposes a contradiction in his position (similar to what McCain is regularly confronted with) we will see if Obama has learned to function “outside his comfort zone.”

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Terrorism as (Anti)Statecraft

Yaacov Lozowick notes that as part of its resumption of violence against Israel, Hamas announced that it

“. . . is not going to be a police securing the border of the occupation,” [Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya] added. “No one will enjoy a happy moment seeing Hamas holding a rifle in the face of a resistance fighter.”

Lozowick comments:

The question is if [a future Palestinian government] will take upon itself one of the most basic of all tasks of government, the monopoly of waging violence. As long as they don’t understand that this is a fundamental need of their own, irrespective of Israel, no peace agreement with them will ever hold. On the contrary, the longer they insist on behaving like little children, the more obvious and irrevocable it will be not to allow them a government. Governing is a matter for adults.

Yaacov’s anger is completely understandable, but I think it leads him a bit astray. Hamas refuses to “police” Gaza on behalf of Israel not because it is incapable of monopolizing the legitimate use of violence, to use Max Weber’s construction, but because the continued use of violence is the primary means by which Hamas can ensure that no progress is made toward Palestinian statehood, which Hamas has always opposed. The violence emanating from Gaza is not a side effect of anarchy — it is official policy.

Put another way, the pursuit of a two-state solution places the viability of the entire endeavor on the willingness of terrorists to repudiate the interests served by terrorism. Hamas thinks that the peace process can be used to destroy Israel, because Hamas also believes people like the Prime Minister of Israel, who recently said that if the two-state solution collapses, “and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.” In other words, the Palestinians can finish Israel simply by refusing to create a state. This was Arafat’s strategy, and it is Hamas’ today. It has never worked.

Yaacov Lozowick notes that as part of its resumption of violence against Israel, Hamas announced that it

“. . . is not going to be a police securing the border of the occupation,” [Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya] added. “No one will enjoy a happy moment seeing Hamas holding a rifle in the face of a resistance fighter.”

Lozowick comments:

The question is if [a future Palestinian government] will take upon itself one of the most basic of all tasks of government, the monopoly of waging violence. As long as they don’t understand that this is a fundamental need of their own, irrespective of Israel, no peace agreement with them will ever hold. On the contrary, the longer they insist on behaving like little children, the more obvious and irrevocable it will be not to allow them a government. Governing is a matter for adults.

Yaacov’s anger is completely understandable, but I think it leads him a bit astray. Hamas refuses to “police” Gaza on behalf of Israel not because it is incapable of monopolizing the legitimate use of violence, to use Max Weber’s construction, but because the continued use of violence is the primary means by which Hamas can ensure that no progress is made toward Palestinian statehood, which Hamas has always opposed. The violence emanating from Gaza is not a side effect of anarchy — it is official policy.

Put another way, the pursuit of a two-state solution places the viability of the entire endeavor on the willingness of terrorists to repudiate the interests served by terrorism. Hamas thinks that the peace process can be used to destroy Israel, because Hamas also believes people like the Prime Minister of Israel, who recently said that if the two-state solution collapses, “and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.” In other words, the Palestinians can finish Israel simply by refusing to create a state. This was Arafat’s strategy, and it is Hamas’ today. It has never worked.

Read Less




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